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GOING GREEN - A Green Ambassador: Hit CBS Drama 'Madam Secretary' Is The Latest Series To Embrace Green Production

Posted By Written by Claudine Marrotte and Christina Delfico, Thursday, June 9, 2016

Secretary portrays a strong, smart and compassionate woman dedicated to protecting the citizens of the world and her loving family.

That mission plays out behind the scenes as well. Lori McCreary, Executive Producer of the series, has implemented a sustainable set that has impacted the cast, crew, environment and surrounding community in a positive way.

McCreary hired Eco Supervisor Emellie O’Brien, founder of Earth Angel, to help implement her plan and track the costs and benefits to the bottom line, as well as the environment.

O’Brien says that being sustainable just means being more resourceful. She believes that communication is the core of a successful sustainability plan. When the cast and crew are given guidelines and support, "You set the team up for success.” In preproduction, memos were emailed to the team describing how to support the green initiatives. During actual production, Earth Angel guided waste reduction measures and also set up a contest to award an Eco-Ambassador, someone on the cast and crew who put in extra effort to help each episode be green.

 top: cast member and producer Eric Stolz talks green production; Earth Angel's Grace Hendricks and Emellie O'Brien.

Co-Executive Producer, director and actor, Eric Stoltz, admits he was a wee bit skeptical of going green on set but had a change of heart when he noticed how it united the company and the crew. They would egg each other on to become more thoughtful and give each other "guff” if someone didn’t recycle. There was a playful, competitive attitude to win the Eco-Ambassador prize each episode, which was a reusable tote bag made out of recycled plastic with the words Eco-Ambassador printed above the 

Madam Secretary logo.

The results are in. Madam Secretary to date has diverted over 74% of its waste from landfills and fed over 4,000 hungry in New York City in season two alone.

Stoltz feels proud that he is part of a green production. He believes the best way to implement a strategy is to lead by example. If the Executive Producer is recycling their soda can or composting their lunch and compostable plateware, the crew will follow.

Grace Hendricks of Earth Angel, who provides direction and support to the cast and crew on set, told us that she completely understands that most of us are just used to throwing away the trash as a one-step thing, and now we actually have to think about where everything goes. At first there were a lot more signs to instruct whether what you had in your hand was for compost or recycle but, like any habit, it is quickly learned and embraced.

Tim Daly, co-star, feels that you don’t have to be passionate about the environment to recycle. "It’s easy and it’s the right thing to do; it’s as simple as walking over and putting it in the correct bin! If you can change a habit and make a new habit you don’t think about it. Being on a green set is the same as any other set—you just feel better about yourself that you’re not wasting a lot of stuff.” He reflected on the fact that our industry brings a lot of money into the economy so why not do it in a way where we don’t waste a lot of resources.

The series' sustainably snazzy water bottle

In addition to paperless digital distribution of scripts and call sheets, and basic recycling and composting food and beverages, the art department has embraced the plan by creating less waste to begin with. Art director Marissa Kotsilimbas reports the biggest challenge for the art department on a television series is short prep time between episodes. Her department’s approach is to reuse and repurpose materials as much as possible. "We evaluate the creative, time frame and costs for each build and make the best decision for each set that we create,” she says. For example, there was a scene that required a large cargo ship for a refugee scene and instead of building it they found one in Long Island and had it brought to Silvercup East to shoot it.

Repurposing the ship avoided using new materials for the build and gave the set layers of authenticity that would have been difficult to replicate with such a small turnaround. She suggests to consider what you can use from something else you’ve already built and think how you could apply that to future sets you design.

McCreary believes that the cost of implementing a green strategy is small in relation to the big impact it has. We asked this passionate producer about what advice she has for her peers. "Producers have the power to go green; there is no reason not to anymore.”

McCreary is most proud of donating excess food to the hungry via Rock and Wrap it Up, a New York based nonprofit anti-poverty think tank that distributes food to those in need. The most unexpected benefit of the greening of the set was that the crew really bonded over the sustainable goals. "So many of the studios and production companies are involved with PGA Green, the more we all do it the more everyone will, because crews leave one set and go to another production and say, ‘Why aren’t we recycling?’”

Her last piece of advice for producers, studios, and network executives is to visit the PGA Green website, which provides detailed information about the financial and environmental benefits that can be tailored to your production to help you build a sustainable plan.

-Written by Claudine Marrotte and Christina Delfico 

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